In a recent talk I gave on the art of receiving, the psychologist who organized the event offered an interesting comment.
is a psychologist, author, and leading expert on addiction. He made the point that there’s an important difference between receiving and taking. Here is my understanding of the difference.
We may have developed a character structure that makes it difficult for us to receive deeply. Whether someone offers a gift, a compliment, or a kind act, we might have built a wall that prevents us from letting it in. This block may be due to a combination of our beliefs and emotional blocks around receiving.
If our religious or cultural upbringing taught us that receiving means we’re selfish, then this belief may disallow us from letting in good things. In addition, we may carry emotional wounds that make it challenging to receive. Our love receptors may have atrophied if we grew up with lots of shaming, criticism, or abuse. We may have concluded that we don’t deserve kindness or love. Or it might represent an emotional threat. If we let in good feelings from a person’s kindness, what if that person lets us down or rejects? Not allowing ourselves to receive — maintaining a protective shield — safeguards us from being disappointed or hurt. We dissociate from the vulnerability required to receive. At the same time, we cut ourselves off from the nurturing we need to thrive.
Are You Taking or Receiving?
Deep receiving means allowing ourselves to be connected to a tender place inside us that longs to be loved, seen, and understood. Such receiving softens us. We experience a tenderness when we’re truly receiving. We feel gratitude toward the person who has offered their kindness and caring.
When we’re not willing or able to receive in this